Two-hundred-and-eight grand. Sorry, I just needed to see it written down. That’s what this Bentley Bentayga has been optioned up to from its list price of £147,600. A little uncommon, I’ll grant you – but not unknown.
Anyway, at least it makes the idea of an £89,000 Range Rover somewhat easier to get your head around, no? This is, as much as anything, a luxury car comparison test.
I’m not sure Bentley would agree, though. This mere £89,110 (as tested; £86,920 before options) is a Mercedes-Benz price, not a Bentley one. In a different sphere, mate. Well, we’ll see, shall we? How far can the Range Rover’s appeal stretch? And can it make it all the way to the Bentayga?
Aesthetically speaking, things have moved on for the Bentayga since its 2016 introduction, thanks to some modifications last year (hence us having this test), which I think you can tell most notably by the new elliptical tail-lights.
There are changes inside, too. Bentley says more than 1000 components have been changed overall, but given that those things include matrix headlights and new windscreen wipers, you know you’re dealing with a fundamentally similar car.
Inside, the most telling changes to a cabin that feels brilliantly constructed and finished, albeit here with a slightly left-field sort-of-burnished metal trim, are a new central touchscreen and a digital instrument pack. The layout retains some separate buttons for some of the more commonly used comfort and audio features, thankfully, although I still think it could do with a separate rotary controller to navigate through the menus.
There are new seats, too, which are pleasingly supportive, large and comfy and sit you in a fairly car-like driving position for what is a big SUV, with a snug, high window line at about shoulder height.
And make no mistake, this is a big SUV, still measuring 5125mm long and 1998mm wide, minus mirrors. And it weighs 2416kg with this 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, which drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Bentley likes its cars to accomplish a lot (this one can), it likes them to have a lot of rear leg and head room (this one does) and it flogs them all over the world. The Bentayga has to be rated to tow 3.5 tonnes, be a luxury car, be an off-roader (so there’s variableheight air suspension) and do 180mph, so it’s a big old beast, with 542bhp and 568lb ft, no less. Quite literally, for the moment, no more and no less: with no W12 Speed for us and a plug-in hybrid version not yet available to order, this is currently the only engine you can order for the Bentayga in the UK.
Some of this Range Rover’s numbers are a bit different, largely because it’s a diesel, but the new mild-hybrid D300 is the engine that suits it best. It’s an in-line six-cylinder diesel, again with an eight-speed automatic ’box, but it makes just 296bhp and 479lb ft, so it’s obviously quite a lot slower at 130mph flat out. But it also has less mass to push along. The kerb weight is 2275kg and there’s a hint of mild-hybrid electrification to do a bit of torque-filling and make it more responsive.
The exterior dimensions aren’t so different. The Range Rover is bang on five metres long and only 8mm narrower across its body than the Bentayga, so perhaps it’s because it sits 88mm taller that it gives a vibe of being narrower, although it could also be due to its lower window line or lower boot opening.
The Range Rover’s tailgate is split by the time the lower half has dropped down, so the load height is the same as the Bentley’s but the aperture seems bigger. There’s nothing in it when it comes to boot space itself – 485 litres for the Range Rover, 484 in the Bentley – and head and leg room is just as good in the Range Rover as it is in the Bentayga.
The Range Rover feels more spacious, though, with a window line closer to your elbow rather than up around your shoulder. Land Rover talks often about its ‘command’ driving position, but here is where it pays off. You get a much more comprehensive view out, while huge mirrors and relatively flat body sides make the Range Rover dead easy to place on the road.
Inside, it’s functional, too. Not that the Bentley isn’t, but the Range Rover’s dials and switches are chunkier and more straightforward. The infotainment isn’t Land Rover’s latest iteration (it has a few, bear with it), and it won’t be a surprise to regular users of one that it entered its equivalent of a PC’s ‘blue screen of death’ at one point. Still, nice for the nostalgia; it has been a while since I saw a ZX Spectrum game load screen. Sigh. I turned it off and on again and it was fine, but it would be nice not to expect that.
Material quality and finish aren’t to Bentley standards, but given that it’s half the price, it’s certainly not half as bad. Land Rover has tried to pitch the Range Rover higher than this: tick the boxes on a Long Wheelbase car with a 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 and you will be asked for £179,715 before options for an SVAutobiography. It’s a lovely engine and all, but the car struggles to justify itself at that price, no matter how much knurling they put around the edge of the 12V socket insert. No, I knew before and I know now that this is where a Range Rover feels just right.
And it does, too, when you drive it. It’s so easy and casual. The ride is smooth, while this new powertrain is all but inaudible on smaller throttle openings and far from intolerable at bigger ones. The steering is light and takes on no great weight or feel as you turn, but while it’s slower than the Bentley’s, it’s also exceptionally accurate.
With the centre armrest down and the driver’s seat set to the right position, this is a car in which it is remarkably easy to relax. It doesn’t have the same number of drive modes as the Bentley, which has Comfort, Sport and a compromise Bentley setting, but if the Range Rover had an equivalent, I would label its primary mode Mooch.
And so to the Bentayga’s drive. It’s the car that’s asked to do pretty much everything: dynamism, comfort, SUV-ability. Logically, something has to give, no? And it does; it simply can’t do the lot. But by gum it tries, and I don’t think any SUV tries harder, although the Aston Martin DBX runs it close. But while it does more, technically, than the Range Rover, I’m not sure it does it as endearingly.
Its ride is firmer, noisier and, in town at least, verging on thumpy, although both it and the Range Rover both wear 21in rims with similar all-season tyres. Body control is tighter and there’s less roll as a result, it’s true, and the steering is heavier, more positive and faster.
All of which you might think are good things, and I suppose they are. As is the fact that it’s faster – really, it’s very fast – and, because it has a petrol V8, it makes a better noise. Even so, it’s no more satisfying to drive, not in the UK, especially on roads where the hedgerows hem you in and the high window line hems you in again. Despite that firmness of ride it never hides its weight, which means it doesn’t have the dynamism of, say, the DBX or Porsche Cayenne or Lamborghini Urus.
Perhaps it’s better on wider roads, or smoother roads, or faster roads – in other countries, basically. But here, while there’s more to this SUV than there is to the Range Rover, the latter feels more comfortable in its own skin. More comfortable on British roads, at least. And if you’re sitting on that tailgate as a pheasant wanders past and you’re taking in the green and pleasant surroundings sipping tea from a flask, you’ll be more comfortable, too. They’re not quite the same thing, these two cars. But the Range Rover still nails what a luxurious 4x4 can be.
What about a used Bentley?
Early Bentaygas can now be found for as little as £80,000 – if you consider that amount to be little. But it’s a fair bet that they won’t stop depreciating there. We actually found one for which the price started with a seven, and it won’t be the last.
The cheapest cars are 6.0-litre W12s, which are also the earliest examples, so that’s no surprise. Cars with 4.0-litre V8 engines – petrol and diesel – were introduced later so have fewer miles and higher prices.
Expect an £80k Bentayga to have covered 60,000 miles but also to be in a fairly reserved specification. Despite Bentley being prepared to paint a car any colour you like, dull hues – greys, silvers, muted variations thereof – make up the overriding number of Bentaygas for sale. Chrome-delete black trim and black wheels are about as wild as they tend to get. And for all of the rough terrain credentials, none looks very off-roaded.
This is still a relatively new car sold in relatively small numbers, so it’s hard gauge its reliability and durability. But if you couldn’t afford the servicing and maintenance on a new one, you probably can’t on a used one. Even so, I see the temptation of a luxury car at half its new price.